How he made his pile: Mike Ashley - Sports retailer

Who is he? The 43-year-old maverick behind Sports Direct, which owns the Sports World and Lillywhites chains. Also owner of the perennially unspectacular Newcastle United, he's worth £1.4bn.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

How did he make his billions? The former squash coach opened his first store in 1982. Last year, he floated the firm - by then a nationwide chain of 375 stores - pocketing £929m in one day. Shares plunged to their lowest this summer, after profits fell 50%. Ashley took control of Newcastle United last year too, but fans' rantings have forced him to look for a buyer. He would be even better off if it wasn't for a disastrous punt on the share price of HBOS. Cost: several hundred million pounds.

The secret of his success? Ashley's straight talking helped in building his business. But it hasn't gone down so well within a public company. After issuing a series of profit warnings, he called the City 'cry babies' and a Panmure Gordon analyst a 'moron'. And he won't be lifting any cups for corporate governance.

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